GOALS (Global Outreach and Love of Soccer) congratulates the winners of its 2nd annual national youth soccer tournament, Vin Jwe! (Come and Play). Fondation L’Athletique D’Haiti’s boys’ and girls’ teams, from Citè Soleil, edged out the competition to take home the championship cup. CNN Hero Patrice Millet’s FONDAPS team took home the second place trophy and Citadelle Football Club placed second in the girls division. Over 250 players ages 13 -18 from around Haiti demonstrated their skills on the field during the course of the two day tournament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Organizational partners came together to encourage and empower the young players to take charge of their personal health. BoulderShares, which also sponsored the event, provided individualized health counseling and launched the use of a new health card to enable youth to track information about their health. Global DIRT was on hand to provide first aid care. Each team received personal care kits with a variety of donated first aid supplies and hand sanitizer, plus information about protecting themselves against cholera and other health risks. A professional DJ kept the energy high at the event and reinforced health and hygiene messages. An estimated 1,000 people filled the sidelines to support their favorite teams.

Along with learning how to take charge of their health, the young players were treated to an inspiring exhibition match played by Haiti’s national amputee team.

GOALS director and tournament organizer Kona Shen said, “I’m proud of the sportsmanship and spirit displayed by all of the teams at the tournament, and I’m particularly proud of the girls teams for their inspiring determination and level of play on the field. Through their love of soccer, these girls have become confident, healthy, determined young women. It’s incredible to see the support they have from the community, such as the hundreds of men and boys cheering them on as they play for a championship title.”

Soccer always has an exceptional power to forge friendships, cross social and economic divisions, and create safe and inviting spaces, and this is true even in the midst of the extreme poverty of post-disaster Haiti. As Haiti’s national game, soccer is a part of daily life. Kids play barefoot with both friends and strangers, amongst piles of rubble, kicking around tin cans, water bottles, or whatever they can find if a ball isn’t available. After the devastating earthquake of 2010, soccer fields and stadiums became home to thousands of internally displaced persons, who set up camp on the pitch. In the immediate aftermath, when aftershocks still threatened already weakened buildings, open soccer fields also hosted emergency medical teams operating out of makeshift tent hospitals.

Though soccer has a long history in Haiti, using soccer to advance development and promote health is relatively new ground. By hosting the largest youth soccer tournament in Haiti, GOALS is furthering its ongoing efforts to use soccer as a means to advance social change at the community and national level.

GOALS is a sport-for-development organization which harnesses the intense love of soccer in Haiti to engage youth in education and projects to improve their quality of life and develop local leadership. According to UNICEF, “Sport can be an effective tool to help achieve goals in health, education, gender equality, HIV and AIDS, child protection and child development.”

By convening aid agencies with hundreds of young soccer players from around Haiti to promote positive and healthy youth development, GOALS 2nd annual tournament proved that soccer is much more than just a game.

About GOALS Haiti:
GOALS is a 501c3 non-profit organization incorporated in the United States and headquartered in Leogane, Haiti. GOALS’ soccer programs impact 500 kids every day, and reach an additional 3400 people through outreach to families. For more information, please visit http://goalshaiti.org

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